Monday, October 31, 2011


How do you define courage? I used to believe that courage was a quality primarily reserved for superhero types, rather than for ordinary mortals. After returning two years ago from a paradigm shifting journey in Peru and Bolivia, I now understand that courage resides in each of us - a quality that miraculously appears in the most unusual places. On this journey through various sacred sites in Peru and Bolivia, eighteen seemingly ordinary people naively embarked on the most physically, psychologically and spiritually challenging journey of our lives. We agreed that had we truly known what we would be faced with on this trip, we would have run in the opposite direction. Ultimately, we were grateful that our naivety led us into a world and culture unlike anything we had previously known. Throughout our travels in this foreign world, each of us was blessed with the opportunity to be profoundly challenged and to access our unique version of courage.

My version of courage unfolded in Peru, hiking Wanu Picchu and visiting the Temple of the Moon at the base of Wanu Picchu. Access to the Temple of the Moon required climbing straight up Wanu Picchu, hiking around the mountain face and then hiking all the way down the back side of the mountain. The whole process was then reversed in order to return to our starting point. My pre-journey work outs, vitamins and healthy life style failed to prepare me for hiking up to 13,500 ft elevations in the hot sun. The native guides who accompanied our small group seemed to effortlessly glide up the steep terrain of Wanu Picchu, appearing to be made out of a different set of ingredients than we were. As I physically struggled and failed to keep up with the group, the steep terrain produced countless mirages of flat rest spots that magically disappeared as I approached them. Each step, even with the aid of my sturdy hiking stick, felt excruciatingly impossible to complete. As I continued to struggle with each step, the distance between me and the rest of my group expanded. Soon, it was just me, the mountain, my exhaustion and an endless series of next steps required to complete the task at hand.

Although I was committed to completing the journey to the Temple of the Moon, I didn’t have a clue as to how this was going to happen. The guide’s directive at the beginning of the hike was brief - “just focus on the next step.” Feeling increasingly challenged, I remembered the guide’s advice. “Just focus on the next step” seemed a bit simplistic when it felt excruciatingly painful to move and breathe in the thin air. Every time I looked up to estimate how much further I had to go, I felt completely defeated. I learned pretty quickly to stop looking up and follow the guide’s wisdom – “just focus on the next step.” Once the next step was completed, I focused on my next breath. Physically and mentally exhausted, I  came to a complete stop after each step, expressed my appreciation for the step I had just taken, took a slow deep breath or two or three, and then started the entire process all over again. Miraculously, I climbed up, down and around Wanu Picchu, one step at a time and one breath at a time – just focusing on the next step and the next breath, over and over and over again. I expressed my appreciation for the step just taken, re-committed to completing the entire journey, focused on the next step and focused on the next breath. My version of courage incorporates vision, commitment, just focusing on and taking the next step and next breath and, most importantly, pausing to appreciate the completed step. What is your personal version of courage?


No comments:

Post a Comment